WHAT CONSTITUTES FRONT-PAGE NEWS….. In recent years, Josh Marshall has talked many times about the ways in which the Washington establishment is “wired for the GOP.” The Washington Post offers a helpful example today.
Behold the media’s glaring double standard. Today, the Post puts the “tens of thousands” of Obama-hating tea bagger protesters on A1; makes it the lead story as a matter of fact.
And just so there’s no doubt in people’s mind, the blanket coverage the mini-mobs are lapping up (i.e. the mobs are hugely important!) stands in stark contrast to the way the press often did its best to ignore liberal protesters who spoke out against the war in Iraq.
For instance, in October 2002, when more than 100,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., to oppose the war, The Washington Post put the story not on the front page, but in the Metro section with, as the paper’s ombudsman later lamented, “a couple of ho-hum photographs that captured the protest’s fringe elements.”
Not that crowd size is the be-all, end-all of an event’s significance, but it’s worth remembering that no credible count of yesterday’s right-wing protest puts it in the 100,000 range. (And the anti-war protestors didn’t have the advantage of a highly-rated cable network promoting their event every day for months.)
So, 70,000 far-right activists protesting a general sense of anger with progressive government are a major story, 100,000 liberal activists protesting a specific war policy are an afterthought.
This isn’t just about the WaPo in particular. I suspect if we compared the coverage on, say, CNN of both protests, yesterday’s coverage was more extensive.
There are competing angles to explain something like this, and some can make a compelling case that the media just overcompensates — outlets are so afraid of being accused of “liberal bias,” they go out of their way to promote one side’s concerns over the other.
But I still think it gets back to the fact that D.C. is just “wired” for Republicans. Anti-war protestors, the thinking goes, were liberal hippies out of step with the mainstream. After all, there was a Republican president and Republican House in 2002, and polls showed reasonably strong support for the war in Iraq. Why pretend the liberal protestors are important?
In contrast, seven years later, Tea Baggers have to be considered a major political movement. There’s a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress in 2009, and polls show reasonably strong support for the administration’s economic agenda, but the right-wing cries can’t be relegated to a few throw-away paragraphs in the Metro section.
On “60 Minutes” tonight, the president will note, “In the era of 24-hour cable news cycles, the loudest shrillest voices get the attention.” That’s only partially true — it depends on what the shrill voices are saying and from what perspective.